Fall on bus triggers lawsuit

Penticton’s transit service operator was in small claims court this week fighting a $25,000 lawsuit

Penticton’s transit service operator was in small claims court this week fighting a $25,000 lawsuit filed by a woman who claims she was injured on a city bus.

Ashleigh Brianne Norman, 28, is seeking a judgment against Berry and Smith Trucking and its subsidiary, Penticton Transit.

Norman’s notice of claim alleges she was injured on Sept. 22, 2010, when she fell on her back on the stairs used to access the elevated seating area at the rear of a bus she had just boarded on Duncan Avenue near Okanagan College.

The notice alleges the unnamed bus driver was negligent on at least three counts: for failing to ensure Norman was seated before pulling away from the stop; for accelerating too quickly and causing the bus to jerk forward; and for failing to protect the safety of passengers.

In its reply, Penticton Transit denies all the allegations and instead claims: that Norman should have known that moving around on the bus in the manner she did, and at the time she did, could have resulted in injury; that she failed to wear proper footwear; and that she did not pay proper attention to where she was standing.

The court heard some evidence at trial Tuesday in Penticton, but ran out of time. The judge asked lawyers for both sides to submit final arguments in writing in January with a judgment to follow on an unspecified later date.

Michael Welsh, who represented Norman, said his client suffered headaches, back pain and stiffness as a result of her injuries, and also had difficulty lifting and bending, although now “she’s pretty much fully recovered.”

The notice of claim states Norman quit her studies at Okanagan College as a result of her injuries and also suffered a loss of income and earning potential. Welsh said his client is still taking a break from school as she cares for her young children.

Lawyers agreed before the trial to divide up the issues of liability and further damages, so if the judge finds the bus company responsible, both sides would then try to establish through negotiation or the courts the amount to which Norman is entitled.

The $25,000 sought for pain and suffering in the small claims lawsuit is the maximum allowed at that level of court. Welsh said people routinely claim that amount so as not to limit a possible judgment. He declined to speculate on the outcome of the transit case.

“The issue of liability is highly contested and something the parties have not been able to resolve, so that’s why we’re seeking a court determination of it,” Welsh said.

Matt Berry, president of Berry and Smith Trucking, was similarly circumspect.

“We’re hoping for our side, but I’m sure (Norman’s) hoping for hers too, so we’ll let the courts decide where that goes,” he said.

As the company’s insurer, ICBC provided the defence lawyer for the case. Neither the lawyer nor ICBC would comment on the matter because it’s still before the court.